"The Great British Asian Invasion", by Tariq Hameed
Mr Hamish Mykura,
Channel 4 Television
124 Horseferry Road
I write in relation to the documentary entitled "The Great British Asian Invasion" broadcasted by Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday 08 October 2004.
I was pleased to see the Asian community given prime-time exposure on a mainstream channel, in what was for the majority of the two-hour programme a light-hearted and well-presented portrayed of the diversity of the British Asian community. However, we have received several strenuous objections to the segment on British Asian Muslims. we detail the main concerns below:
1) Guantanamo Bay
The programme announced that British Muslims held in Guantanamo Bay were "found" to have been fighting for terrorists in Afghanistan. Five of the nine British Muslims held in Guantanamo Bay were however released by both the US and British governments without charge, and the remaining four are yet to be tried for any alleged crime. Notwithstanding these facts, the programme still concluded that they were "found" to be guilty.
Such misrepresentation is in contravention of Rule 3.5 of the ITC Programme Code, which states that "facts must be respected, and licensees have an obligation to do what they can to ensure that the opinions expressed, however partial, do not rest upon false evidence."
Additionally, the BSC Code on Fairness and Accuracy states in section 7 that "Broadcasters should take all reasonable care to satisfy themselves that all material facts have been considered before transmission and so far as possible are fairly presented."
2) The Salman Rushdie affair and riots in 2001
The programme incorrectly defined a "fatwa" to mean a "death sentence." However, under Islamic law a "fatwa" is the personal opinion on matters of Islamic law delivered by an Islamic jurist. Matters as trivial as how one may cleanse oneself after using the bathroom have been the subject of a"fatwa." Additionally, The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a "fatwa" as an "authoritative ruling on a point of Islamic law," without any reference to a "death sentence."
Ayatollah Khomeini did indeed at one time issue a fatwa against Salman Rushdie, but that does not mean that all "fatwas" entail death sentences.
Such inaccuracy clearly contravenes section 7.2 of the ITC programme, which states that "every attempt must be made to ensure that the belief and practice of religious groups are not misrepresented, and that programmes about religion are accurate and fair."
It is also suggested that the anger lingering after the Salman Rushdie affair was a significant cause of the riots in Oldham in 2001 and Burnley in 2001. This factor was never raised nor considered in the inquiries conducted by the Oldham Independent Review or Burnley Task Force. Unfortunately, no mention is made in the programme of the short-term trigger causes of the riots, being violent provocation by white racist groups.
Indeed, the Burnley Task Force clearly states at section 2.2 of their report that "there is no doubt that following the initial disturbances white racists took advantage to exacerbate the situation and promote disharmony. Some of these people came from out of town and appeared to have come just to cause trouble."
Again, such misrepresentation appears to contravene section 3.5 of the ITC Programme Code.
3) Problem with Integration
The programme further suggested that Islam, in contra-distinction to the other faiths portrayed on the programme, restrained a British Muslim's ability to integrate into British society. Further more, the programme states that Muslims have, again in contra-distinction to other Asian religious groups, a deep sense of belonging/community with other Muslims, and this inhibits them from integrating into British society.
However, the Islamic faith strongly exhorts its adherents to be a positive influence on their community, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and discourages Muslims from becoming insular and retracted. Furthermore, I would be able to supply you with many examples of practising Muslims with a deep knowledge of their faith who have succeeded in historically closed careers such as investment bankers, solicitors, barristers, academics and medical consultants etc.
The polemical approach of the programme is further demonstrated when illustrating the lack of success of British Asians in the field of sport. An exception is made in cricket, but why not also in boxing where Amir Khan, a British Asian, is widely celebrated as the next big thing in boxing?
The lack of decent role models has been a chronic problem of British Asians, although the programme unfortunately puts forward the nefarious Abu Hamza as a perceived role-model for British Asian Muslims, who is not even Asian but Egyptian!
Such denigration of the Muslim community appears to us to be in contravention of section 7.6 of the ITC Programme Code.
Confusingly, the programme suggests that the "yearly travels" of British youth of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin to their parents' respective countries "keeps the links strong." However, the 2001 Census showed that such communities are the poorest in the UK, with the highest unemployment of any ethnic group and with many living in chronic poverty. It would be a surprise if many could afford the "yearly trips," and the programme does not explain why the more frequent trips to India by the comparatively wealthier British youth of Indian origin does not also have the same effect.
You may wish to note the results of the a poll conducted by YouGov in November 2002 (www.isb.org.uk/iaw/docs/SurveyIAW2002.pdf), which found that that 74% of Britons said that they knew "nothing or next to nothing" about Islam while 64% of Britons said that their main source of information on Islam and Muslims was from the media. These results strongly indicate how impressionable programs such as "The Great British Asian Invasion" are on the general British population, yet manifest inaccuracy is not conducive to educating a largely uninformed audience.
We would suggest that to avoid such opprobrium in future, an effort be made to consult representative organisations, such as the MCB, before a program is broadcast or preferably before the production on a program is completed. This would be in conformity with the recommendation in section 7.2 of the ITC Programme Code that states that you "may find it helpful to take advicefrom a group which is representative of the main religious traditions within their audience." Kind regards,
Tariq Hameed Media Committee The Muslim Council of Britain
2a Southwark Bridge Road